Sunday, July 22, 2007

Banker Becomes Focus of Mob Testimony

Friends of ours: Frank "Toots" Caruso, Nicholas Calabrese, Bruno "The Bomber" Roti, Fred Roti
Friends of mine: Fred Barbara

Mayor Daley's friend Fred Bruno Barbara -- who found himself accused in court this week of participating in a mob bombing two decades ago -- has had a lot of jobs over the years. Truck driver. Garbage kingpin. Multimillionaire investor.

His latest: banker.

Barbara, who once was found not guilty of trying to collect an illegal "juice" loan from an undercover FBI agent, last year joined the boards of directors of two banks -- one in Evergreen Park, another on Chicago's Northwest Side.

Barbara, who once was found not guilty of trying to collect an illegal "juice" loan from an undercover FBI agent, last year joined the boards of directors of two banks -- one in Evergreen Park, another on Chicago's Northwest Side.

In April 2006, he was appointed to the board of Evergreen Community Bank. A Barbara business partner, car dealer Joseph Rizza, was already a board member. The bank was purchased by Evergreen Private Bank earlier this year, and Barbara and Rizza remain on the board. "Fred's been a very good board member," said Darin Campbell, president and chief executive of Evergreen Private Bank.

Last October, Barbara and state Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) got state approval to join the board of Belmont Bank & Trust, founded last year by James J. Banks, a zoning attorney who is the nephew of Ald. William Banks (36th).

Barbara, 59, who has homes in Oak Brook and Palm Beach, Fla., has been arrested five times but never convicted of any crime, records show. So state regulators had no reason to exclude him from a bank board, according to state regulators. "These are allegations, and we can't and don't make licensing decisions because someone is alleged to have done something," said Scott Clarke, assistant director of banks and trusts for the Illinois Division of Banking.

With his application to join the Belmont Bank board, Barbara submitted documents to the state showing he and four reputed mobsters -- including his cousin Frank "Toots'' Caruso -- were found not guilty 24 years ago when they were charged with trying to collect an illegal high-interest loan from an undercover FBI agent.

In court testimony Tuesday, admitted mob hit man turned government informant Nicholas Calabrese said Barbara joined two reputed mobsters when they bombed the now-defunct Horwath's Restaurant, a well-known mob hangout in Elmwood Park.

Barbara -- a grandson of early Chicago mob boss Bruno "The Bomber'' Roti -- never was charged in connection with the Horwath's bombing. He didn't return calls for comment.

Barbara built a fortune as a city contractor, getting city trucking business while his uncle, the late Ald. Fred Roti, was a powerful member of the City Council and -- according to an FBI document made public after Roti died -- a "made" member of the mob.

Barbara sold his company, Fred Barbara Trucking, in 1997 in a deal that could have brought him as much as $100 million, records show. He became a consultant to the company that now operates the mayor's much-criticized blue-bag recycling program.

Barbara's wife, Lisa Humbert, had a trucking company that was fired from the city's Hired Truck Program after, in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation, the city determined she wasn't running the business, as she'd claimed. She'd gotten city work by claiming to have a women-owned business.

Thanks to Tim Novak

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